Hunting the Stormbird

 

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and our regular look behind the scenes at the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. As usual, we have a lot to fit into this 44th edition which will include an update on one of the new 1/72nd scale tooling projects, two fantastic reader supplied build features and an exclusive report from the recent Southern Expo model show, held at the Hornchurch Sports Centre over the weekend of 18th/19th March. With a host of exclusive pictures, artwork reveals, modelling tips and techniques, we hope we have something that will be of interest to all our readers in this latest edition of Workbench.

Messerschmitt Me 262 update

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The spectacular Messerschmitt Me 262 box artwork shows off the clean lines of the world’s first operational jet fighter

 

Perhaps more than any other aircraft of WWII, the Messerschmitt Me262 illustrates the pace at which this conflict saw aviation technology develop over a relatively short period of time, but also how overwhelming Allied air superiority would ultimately dictate the future of the world’s first operational jet fighter. There is no doubting that Allied air commanders would have been worried about reports of extremely fast Luftwaffe aircraft appearing in the skies above Germany, which could easily out-pace the latest British and American fighters and did not appear to have propellers, but this would only prove to be a distraction in their well organised aerial offensive. With Allied fighter pilots free to hunt the new German jets at every opportunity and production facilities being pounded by day and night, the Me262 may have been one of the most advanced aircraft of the war, but it never really stood a chance.

The magnificent box artwork featured above shows the Me262 in all its glory and in an operating environment in which it was intended by the Luftwaffe and feared by Allied air commanders. Had large numbers of these highly capable aircraft been able to regularly penetrate the Allied bomber streams, they could have taken a devastating toll of men and machines and threatened to derail the Allied bomber offensive over Europe. In reality, this type of scene would have been few and far between, as overwhelming Allied air superiority dictated that most Me262 operations were mounted against hugely superior numbers of Allied aircraft, with marauding fighter units looking to ruthlessly pick off the jets at every stage of their latest flight – even commencing your take-off run would have been a perilous undertaking.

 

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A selection of computer rendered CAD images from the new Messerschmitt Me 262 project

 

Looking at the distinctive shape of the Messerschmitt Me262, there is no doubting that with its swept back wings and beautifully streamlined shark-like fuselage, this aircraft was built for speed. Unfortunately for the Luftwaffe, the very powerplants that gave the 262 its technological advantage proved to be its Achilles heel and determined that this would always be a high maintenance aircraft, incapable of being operated from anything but a large and fully equipped airfield. With an operational life that rarely exceeded twelve flying hours, Luftwaffe engineers had to become proficient at changing Junkers Jumo engines, because they would get plenty of practice and the number of serviceable aircraft available at any one time would never be enough to cause serious concern to the Allied air forces. The service introduction of this new aviation technology would have been a challenge at any time, but during wartime conditions and with pilots, fuel and raw materials in extremely short supply, this wonder weapon was thankfully never allowed to show what it was really capable of.

The new 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a (A03088) is advancing steadily towards its June 2017 scheduled release date and we are pleased to bring you confirmation of the decal options that will be included in this exciting new kit.

 

Messerschmitt Me262A-1A ‘Yellow 3’, 9./Kampfgeschwader(J) 54, Neuburg an der Donau, Bavaria, Germany, March-April 1945

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The combat introduction of the Messerschmitt Me 262 was not only hampered by technical and manufacturing difficulties, but also by the direct interference of Hitler himself. Despite the significant protestations of senior Luftwaffe fighter pilots, who wanted as many of these interceptor fighters in service as quickly as possible, Hitler decreed that future production should be prioritised for a ‘Schnellbomber’ version of the jet - his thinking was not as flawed as is at first apparent. He knew that the Allies would soon attempt an invasion of northern Europe and the only way to prolong the war (and his deluded vision of eventual victory) would be to halt this invasion on the beaches, wielding such devastating force that the Allies would think long and hard before attempting a similar operation. Waves of Me 262 jet bombers would sweep across the beaches bringing devastation from the air, at speeds making them almost impervious to interception from either ground or air attack. This all sounds impressive on paper, but the reality of the situation proved to be significantly different.

Ingenious to the last, designers at Messerschmitt complied with Hitler’s directive to halt all fighter-only production, but cleverly adapted the Me262 airframe to take bombs – in essence, they were still all fighters, but now had the ability to be converted to carry bombs. When the schnellbomber order was later rescinded and full scale fighter production given priority, this design feature ensured that the in service delay of the fighter version was only a few weeks longer than if Hitler had not intervened.

The colour scheme adopted by this late war 9./KG(J) 54 ‘Totenkopf’ Me 262 is arguably the most iconic for this ground-breaking aircraft and really does play on the shark-like appearance of the world’s first operational jet fighter. KG 54 were a Luftwaffe bomber wing during WWII which suffered very heavy losses during Operation Steinbock and attacks against the D-Day invasion beaches. Withdrawn from the Western Front in September 1944, the unit were assigned to Neuburg an der Donau airfield in Bavaria and began conversion training on the new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet aircraft. Unfortunately for units based at Neuburg, this increased jet activity at the airfield attracted the interest of the USAAF, who’s B-17s and B-24s paid their first visit in February 1945 and returned regularly over the next two months, until the airfield was almost completely destroyed – a fate that seemed to befall every base that hosted the Me 262.

 

Messerschmitt Me262A-1A ‘Green 4’ WNr.111002, Geschwaderkommodore Theodor Weissenberger, Stab II./Jagdgeschwader 7, Kaltenkirchen, Germany, January 1945

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For many modellers engaged in a little pre-build research, the subject of Luftwaffe camouflage during the Second World War is a fascinating one. Always meticulous in their planning, the German State Ministry of Aviation produced a standard for colour shades, their production and application, which certainly does help the scale modeller when painting Luftwaffe aircraft, but with more than one or two caveats. Although the production and reference to these paint charts will certainly allow a clear understanding of the ‘official’ colours used on German aircraft, there seems to have been plenty of field variation when it came to the application of these directives, which still allows the modeller some creative licence when working on their latest Luftwaffe project. During the early stages of the war, the Luftwaffe was sweeping all before it in Europe and the confidence of fighter units manifested itself in some less than standard camouflage variations. During the Battle of Britain, some senior (or particularly self-confident) pilots would instruct ground crews to camouflage their aircraft in a particular way, as they searched for even the slightest advantage whilst engaged in combat with the Royal Air Force.

As the war shifted from the aerial battles over the English Channel to a defensive struggle against the Allies in the skies above Germany, it became more important for the Luftwaffe to camouflage their aircraft from attack whilst on the ground, which became particularly necessary following the introduction of the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. The early jet engines were relatively slow to respond to power input instructions by the pilot, making the aircraft incredibly vulnerable to attack during both take off and landing and with Allied pilots scouring the German countryside for any sign of these highly dangerous opponents, a more effective camouflage scheme had to be adopted. Using brown and green colours on the top surfaces of the aircraft gave the 262 a better chance of avoiding detection whilst in their camouflaged revetments on the ground and during take off and landing, but the war had turned against Germany by now and the formality of the RLM paint system was not as robust as it once was. With regard to the Me 262 in particular, the application of camouflage colours in the final months of the war is a little ambiguous to say the least, with inconsistent paint stocks combining with field mixed supplies and light or heavy application leading to some real ambiguity for the modeller. Add to this the impact of fading and weathering and you can find yourself in the middle of an RLM minefield, however fascinating this may be.

Although the Messerschmitt Me 262 represented a huge advance in aviation technology when it first entered service in the summer of 1944, it proved to be a challenging aircraft to fly, requiring the very best Luftwaffe pilots to master its many virtues. One man who certainly qualified for this status was Theodor Weissenberger, a celebrated ace with 200 aerial victories to his name, before he even flew the Me262. JG.7 ‘Nowotny’ had the distinction of being the first operational jet fighter wing in the world and under the command of Major Weissenberger, was to score some significant successes against Allied air forces, at a time when the Luftwaffe was very much in its death throes. Claiming three B-17 Flying Fortresses destroyed over Berlin on 18th March 1945, Weissenberger would survive the war with a total of 208 confirmed aerial victories from 375 combat missions, which included eight victories whilst flying the Me 262 jet fighter. He would go on to become an accomplished racing driver after the war, but was killed in an accident on the Nurbugring circuit in June 1950, aged 35.

 

Box layout for the new 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt Me 262 kit

 

Both of the schemes included with the new 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt Me 262 kit make excellent subject choices for a model build project and help to mark one of the most important aircraft in the history of powered flight. Always associated with the phrase ‘Too little, too late’, the awesome potential of the Messerschmitt Me 262 was never fully realised, which was certainly fortunate for Allied forces – had this aircraft entered service just six months earlier, it may have had a significant impact on the outcome of the Second World War. This fantastic new model is currently scheduled for a July 2017 release, and can be pre-ordered from the website or your local Airfix stockist.

 


 

Southern Expo 2017

By Simon Owen – Airfix Lead Researcher (photography by Neil Owen, Simon's Dad)

Frequent readers of this blog will be very aware that model shows exist, that on many weekends throughout the year like-minded men and women, as well as children, meet at leisure centres, town halls and community centres throughout the land to share their passion for plastic model kits, hints and tips for building them and adding yet more plastic to the ‘stash’ that will one day, they assure their partners, all be built.

When I began at Airfix in late 2009 the brand had only recently been taken over by Hornby Hobbies. After years of under-investment by Humbrol the name Airfix was not that common at shows, many modellers preferring the more modern tooling produced by our competitors. The 1/48 Lightning and Spitfire 22/24/46 notwithstanding, Airfix was seen as something to give to beginners to practice techniques on, or something for the supremely talented modeller to show just how good they were by taking an older kit and turning it into something amazing.

But times have moved on. Hornby has invested a large amount of time, money and effort into the brand and at the recent Southern Expo show it was brilliant to see just how much recent Airfix tools had infiltrated the many stands at the show. When I started this role in 2009 it would have been unheard of to walk into a model show and see just so many Airfix kits on display. As soon as we walked into the hall on Saturday we were greeted by an excellent build of our Hurricane in Romanian markings, as well as our Seafire 17. And our World War 2 (and just after) range was very well represented at the show.

 

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This beautiful Tiger Moth by Alec of AlleyCat Models shows just what can be done with even our smallest models. The Tiger Moth is by no means an imposing model in size, but its finesse and this eye-catching scheme caught our eye, and both in build and accuracy is light years ahead of the old tooling it replaced!

 

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The early war period is something else that Airfix has looked to represent in kit form, the Gladiator being an early addition to the Hornby-Airfix line up, as was this early Spitfire, beautifully built here.

 

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Despite this show being but a stone’s throw from the old RAF Hornchurch base, it was not Second World War machines that dominated but rather Cold War Jets (and props) that seemed to be most prevalent.

Various stunning Vampire T11s and Jet Provosts continued the training theme right up towards the modern day, their silver or camouflaged finishes telling a great story of the change in colour schemes for RAF training command.

 

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While Cold War Jets are imposing in 1/72, in 1/48th they really stand out. It was wonderful to see not just the Lightning representing Airfix in this scale but also various Meteors, Javelins and Gnats, some finished in a stunning silver sheen, and others like these models from East Kent Scale Modellers in a rather more damaged hue- representing the end of their service lives, seeing out their days on the Manston fire dump. And who can forget our Shackleton? That too featured heavily.

 

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Overall it was great to see just so many familiar models on display tables, and refreshing to hear so many kind words. Despite not telling people I was from Airfix, when pressed they seemed full of praise for the models, imploring me to give one a go……

But the best thing about shows like this is that you can see from so many people such joy, be it in the display of a nicely finished model, or in admiring someone else’s work, or from grabbing a bargain from a trader (or just missing out…..I really wanted that Invader..). The happiness our hobby brings to so many is always great to see. So why don’t you see if you have a show near to you soon? It is a great way to kill a couple of hours with some like-minded individuals.

 

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Pilot maker Provost – Part II

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Scheme profile featured in Airfix Jet Provost T.3/T.3a A02103

 

With thanks to Workbench reader Dave Haddican, we are pleased to bring you the second instalment of his RAF Jet Provost T.3A build project, which this time focuses on the main construction of the model and some basic scratch-built extras that Dave decided to add. Dave re-discovered his love of modelling whilst recovering from a serious Achilles tendon injury, but it is clear from the content of the articles he has kindly supplied to us, was already quite an accomplished modeller. With the new Jet Provost kit proving to be an extremely popular addition to the Airfix range, we hand the next section of Workbench over to Mr H:

Steps 6 thru 9. Although step 6 called for the seats to be glued into the cockpit tub, having already knocked off one of the ejection seat handles while handling the seats I decided to omit this stage and returned to it later in the build. Thus, after painting, I applied the instrument decal to the panel and then mounted the panel to the centre console. The completed cockpit tub was first dry fitted and then glued into the fuselage half. I added weights to the nose as called for in the instructions before joining both fuselage halves together and leaving the model to dry overnight. The fit of the fuselage halves was very good although quite a bit of pressure had to be applied to the clamps to seal the lower fuselage beneath the cockpit tub. The dry fits didn’t show any significant interference in this area and once the glue had dried the finished result was very good.

Steps 10 thru 12. Both the horizontal stabilizer/elevators and the rear fuselage area which houses the exhaust were glued into place next. The fit in this area was so good that they were almost a push fit, with the smallest slither of glue used to retain them in place. Another nice touch is the separate rudder, allowing the modeller to provide a little more realism to the build. This was set slightly off-centre and glued into place. I have often found that the trailing edges of these aerofoil sections, especially in 1:72 scale can be very thick; however, this new mould has managed to produce a relatively thin profile that looks pretty good on the finished model.

 

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Dave’s Jet Provost cockpit makes full use of all the available detail

 

Steps 13 & 14. Next the single piece lower wing section was fitted and glued into place, followed by the port and starboard upper wing sections. Without wanting to sound like a record on repeat, I have to say, the fit in this area was excellent once again. The fuselage joints at the wing roots and underneath were almost seamless and required only the slightest amount of filler.

Steps 15 thru 18. The intake design consists of an inner sidewall/splitter and outer fairing. The parts were glued into place and once they had dried required a small amount of filler and sanding. At this stage the kit is really beginning to look and feel like a Jet Provost.

Steps 19 & 20. As with all construction kits, the undercarriage is usually left towards the end, and Airfix provide you with the option at this stage to model the aircraft in flight with the undercarriage retracted or on the ground with the undercarriage extended. I very rarely model aircraft in flight and therefore selected the latter option. Another nice touch here is the flattened base to the tyres, giving the impression of a tyre that is straining under the weight of the aircraft. It also ensures that the aircraft sits flat when displayed. As I normally end up knocking off the wheels during the masking and painting process I decided to mount the various undercarriage components onto the end of cocktail sticks ready for painting. A small dab of superglue held the items in place during the painting process and I attached these later in the build. Therefore, I only had to glue the lower antenna and pitot probes into place.

 

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Some of the additional detail added to this RAF Jet Provost build

 

Steps 21 & 22. The final steps of the construction saw the main upper antenna glued into place followed by the three-part canopy. Another clever feature of this kit gives the modeller the option to model the canopy in the open or closed position, the former uses a slightly wider part that fits over the rear section of the canopy.

I always have an issue with canopies as the internal frames are rarely modelled. In order to try and rectify this I masked off the transparent sections and then painted the outer frames black so that when viewed from the outside, the inside sections of the canopy appear to be the correct colour. Whilst preparing the main canopy for masking I noticed from my research photographs that the strengthening frame in the main canopy should actually be on the inside of the Perspex and not the outside as per the kits moulded detail. Therefore, I delicately cut away the central strengthening frame with a sharp blade and then sanded and polished the canopy with increasingly fine grades of wet and dry paper. I then masked the inside of the canopy and painted the frame black (Humbrol 33), so that when viewed from the outside, it appeared as though the frame was on the inside. Although time consuming, I was really pleased with the end result. Once all of the canopy masking had been completed, the fore and aft transparencies were glued into place with PVA glue and the main canopy was held in place using blu-tack, allowing me to fit the seats and then model the canopy in the open position once the painting was completed.

 

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The model is getting ready for the final painting stages

 

Reference photographs of the aircraft in service showed a large anti-collision light and a number of small louvres and vents adorning the upper fuselage, just rear of the canopy, on the main engine access doors. In addition, there is also a small antenna fitted to the nose of later Jet Provost T.3A aircraft, and antennas either side of the vertical stabiliser. None of these items are represented on the kit and if I am being super critical they are probably the only area of fault with this little gem of a model. As a result, I scratch built the items using various bits of plastic-card and the anti-collision light was constructed using a small bit of the sprue used to hold the transparencies’.

 

Once again, we would like to thank Dave for sending in this fantastic build review and we look forward to bringing you the final instalment in the next edition of Workbench, where we will be looking at the painting and decaling of the Jet Provost.

 


Modelling a Night Warrior

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This wartime photograph served as inspiration for Martin’s build

 

In the previous edition of Workbench, we featured a beautiful 1/48th scale Boulton Paul Defiant nightfighter build completed by reader Martin Wainwright, who was determined to produce a model that represented an aircraft that looked as if it had been used on operations. The images we included certainly sparked some debate and we are grateful for the many complimentary e-mails we received about Martin’s impressive work. Many fellow modellers were keen to find out how Martin achieved the impressive, yet subtle worn finish to his model and we are pleased to bring you further details of the build now.

Martin described how he has always been impressed by the unusual configuration of the Defiant and having made the 1/72nd scale Airfix kit as a young man, he was attracted to the newly tooled 1/48th scale version as soon as it was released and was determined to do something special with it. Following some on-line research, he decided he would finish his model as nightfighter N1801 ‘Coimbatore II’ of No.264 ‘Madras Presidency’ Squadron, which was the mount of Defiant aces Flight Officer Frederick Hughes and Sgt. Fred Gash, taking references from a wartime photograph as his inspiration. Importantly, he wanted to produce a model that looked as if it was an aircraft at war and did not look as if it had just been wheeled out of the paint shop – this was clearly going to be a challenging build, but Martin was up for the fight!

 

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A selection of images taken during this impressive build project

 

As you can see from the pictures Martin kindly supplied, he felt the best way to obtain an authentic finish to his model was to give it an over-all coat of extreme metal aluminium as a base, before strategically adding some maskol to simulate a paint chipping effect when applying thin layers of black paint over the top. Martin described how he also used a salt mask to break up the stark black of the main nightfighter scheme, which would be built up over several layers of thinly sprayed paint, with the salt washed off to produce the desired weathering effect. It is clear that this must have been a time consuming process, but the end results were well worth the effort – incredibly, this was the first time Martin had attempted this process.

 

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Martin certainly managed to obtain an impressive finish on his Nightfighter

 

As fellow modellers will be only too aware, despite our best efforts and meticulous preparation, the hobby can jump up and bite you at any stage of the build process. Although Martin had gone to great lengths in producing an authentic finish to his Defiant, he had some real problems applying the decals to his model, which simply would not adhere to the surface properly and had the potential to spoil the entire look of the finished model. Not to be beaten at this late stage and resorting to the resourcefulness of the committed modeller, Martin decided that he would take the long route and paint the wing insignia and tail flash, which ensured these details would look as authentic as possible. The pictures we included in the previous edition did not have the kill markings displayed on the port side of the aircraft, as the decal sheet had mistakenly printed them in reverse and desperate to finish his model true to the wartime photograph on which it was based, Martin only completed the model this past weekend. He made a mask for the swastika kill markings and airbrushed them to the model, in a move that must have caused him no little stress, but was certainly worth the effort.

Martin told us that although he is clearly a very talented modeller (we added that bit), he is not prolific by any stretch of the imagination and the Defiant project took him around six months to complete. With a young family, it can sometimes be difficult to find the time to devote to his modelling, which like many people, takes place on the kitchen table, when all his other duties have been completed. Martin clearly had a vision for this particular build, which has resulted in a superb example of the new 1/48th scale Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I, which benefits from faded paintwork and insignia, subtle weathering and accurately applied staining. He was determined to stay true to the wartime reference images and not be too heavy handed with the application of any of these effects, all of which he has achieved beautifully. With our Nightfighter version of the Defiant due to be released towards the end of this year, we think Martin’s build will inspire many modellers to add this most interesting RAF fighter to their build schedule. We would like to thank Martin for his help in producing these build features and we look forward to featuring his build talents in a future edition of Workbench.

 

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The finished Defiant is a credit to Martin’s vision and modelling skills

 

That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, which we sincerely hope included something of interest to you.  We are always interested to hear what our readers have to say and to receive any pictures or features you feel may be of interest to fellow modellers in a future edition of our blog.  There are several ways in which you can contact us, including our dedicated e-mail address workbench@airfix.com and of course the Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum.

If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion.  Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch with us, as it is always great to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts.

Finally, the Airfix website is the destination to find out all the very latest model release information, with our New Arrivals and Coming Soon sections all accessed by clicking the Shop button at the top of the webpage. As work on the website is a constant process, a quick search through all the Airfix web pages will usually reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections, so this is always a rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

We look forward to bringing you our next Airfix update on Good Friday.

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

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